A Weakened Forest Service is Bad News For Greater Yellowstone

I was on the phone with Dan Bailey today. His family homesteaded in an area of Bridger-Teton National Forest called the Upper Hoback. When describing what it’s like to return home, driving north toward Bondurant, Wyo., and the southern gateway to Greater Yellowstone, Bailey told me: “You come over the rim, and it’s an incredible view. You can say, ‘I have arrived in Greater Yellowstone.’ You don’t need a sign to tell you something big has changed.”

But big changes are in the works for this place because a Houston-based natural gas company plans to drill 136 wells at the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Hoback River. The project threatens to harm wildlife habitat, contaminate local drinking water and sully the skyline clear up to Grand Teton National Park.

“If this project goes forward,” said Bailey. “Those views will be lost for a lifetime.”

To make matters worse, added the 53-year-old tri-athlete and TWS member, proposed cuts to the Forest Service budget will further hinder the agency’s already strained efforts to manage the demands of the energy industry.

“The industry has a playbook, and they’ve played this game many times,” said Bailey.

This comment made me think about how the proposed budget cuts to federal agencies like the Forest Service are part of the industry’s playbook. Because one way to get what you want is to weaken those with the power to say no.

Watch this video, which captures the concerns of Wyoming Range citizens:

Photo: Sky over Yellowstone. Courtesy of Flickr/Richard Conlan.